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“I think I am as devoted to and I hope I have been as as successful in promoting the oral system as any one living.” Dr. David Buxton

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 10 February 2017

Dr. David Buxton (1821-1897) was a teacher of the deaf at Liverpool.  He was co-founder of The Quarterly Review of Deaf Mute Education, an important publication that pre-dated the foundation of the National Association for Teachers of the Deaf and its journal, the Teacher of the Deaf, and spent the last years of his life working as secretary then Superintendent to the Manchester Adult Deaf and Dumb Institute.  He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Buxton was born in Manchester, son of Jesse, a cotton spinner, and his wife Ann.  On the Manchester baptismal register he was one of 64 children baptised on Sunday the 17th of June, 1821 (see records on ancestry.com).   His obituary in The British Deaf Monthly, from which much of the following comes, says, “Of his early life we know little until his twentieth year, when he became an inmate of the Old Kent Road asylum, remaining there ten years, at first as junior, and ending as head assistant teacher.”  According to his evidence to The Royal Commission on the Blind, the Deaf and Dumb, he started his teaching career at Old Kent Road in January 1841, and went to Liverpool in October 1851 (page 309. paragraph 9183 in the Minutes of Evidence).  From there he moved to Liverpool as headmaster, where he remained for 26 years.  Branson and Miller (p.194) tell us that Buxton joined the Old Kent Road Asylum “on the recommendation of the Reverend Alexander Watson of St. Andrews Ancoats, a relative of Dr. Watson whom he had met through a mutual interest in literature.”  Unfortunately they give us no source for that statement.  Alexander Watson was in fact a son of Dr. Joseph Watson by his second wife, Susannah Littlewood (thanks to @DeafHeritageUK for pointing that out).

In 1878 David Buxton became Secretary of the Ealing Teacher Training College, and was consequently on good terms with the oralist, Sir Benjamin Ackers.  Ackers was one of the members of the Royal Commission.  In his evidence to the Royal Commission of 1886, Buxton said (p.309), “I think I am as devoted to and I hope I have been as successful in promoting the oral system as any one living.”  In paragraph 9179, he explains “My own special duty at the Old Kent Road was to teach the first class; I taught all to speak as it was called then, teaching them articulation.”  Further on in his extensive testimony, which continues for over twelve pages of dense text, he was asked, presumably by the chairman of the committee for that session, Lord Egerton of Tatton,

We have three systems of teaching the deaf and dumb: the sign system, the combined system, and the oral system.  Do you think that any one of those is so superior to the others that the State ought to insist that only should be taught; or do you think that there must be two or more systems recognised side by side by the State?”

He responded,

“I am so thoroughly in earnest in my advocacy of the superiority of the oral system, that I should be very glad to see every other extinguished; but I know that must be a matter of time.  The oral system is incomparably the best; it is not open to question at all, because it assimilates the deaf to the class with whom they live.  If I want to communicate by signs to a deaf child I have to descend to his level: but by the oral system I endeavour to raise him to my level.  For a time perhaps the combined system may struggle on: I think that is very probable; but that the sign system in itself will last I have not the slightest expectation.  I think it will die out. (paragraph 9221)

Dr David Buxton

Some might say it is “an unconscionable time dying.”

On a curious note, in paragraph 9255 (p.314), he is asked about encouraging games such as cricket and football in school, and tells the commission, “One of my pupils at Liverpool came from Chester; he came to Liverpool to school to save himself from being drowned in the Chester Canal, I expect, for they could not keep the fellow out of the canal; he was in all day long on a summer’s day.”

The whole report is very long, but reading snatches of it brings the period to life, being reported speech, and I imagine, accurately recorded as an official report.  This exchange is very illuminating:

9262. […] when I first became a teacher the very large proportion of those who taught in the institutions were deaf teachers.

9263.  That is objectionable, is it not?  – Most objectionable.  When I went into the Old Kent Road Asylum, I think the staff was 12; I was the third who who could hear and all the other nine were deaf.   They were very good specimens of what the combined system could do; most of them could speak; they all made signs to their pupils and to one another, but nearly all spoke to us, the hearing staff.  Now I think deaf teachers are almost obsolete […]*

Buxton’s degree of 1870 was a rare honour,  conferred on him, Harvey Peet, William Turner, and Charles Baker, by Edward M. Gallaudet (American Annals of the Deaf, 1870, p.256).  It illustrates how influential his various articles were in the years before the Milan Congress.

In the Rev. Fred Gilby’s memoirs (p.149) he recalls Buxton :

I remember that Dr. Buxton was living, an extra-pure oralist though he was in theory, he ended up his days by acting as missionary to the deaf, and was acting as such in 1895 when I got there.  A foremost champion of pure oralism, he was polite enough to come and lunch with me and to honour me with his company.  He was a master of pure English but “how are the mighty fallen”, and he was now “preaching to the deaf on his fingers!”  Sunday after Sunday in his old age he came to be using the method he had for a number of years been cursing up hill and down dale.

Buxton died of influenza on the 23rd of April, 1897, and was buried at Smithdown Road Cemetery, Liverpool. Ephphatha‘s editorial for June, 1897, says,

Many regarded him as the Nestor of our cause.  He undoubtedly possessed a vast store of knowledge and a ready pen and tongue.  But he did not prosper in a worldly sense.  His life was beset with difficulties, with thorns and trials, yet he worked bravely on, good natured, patient, and scholarly unto the last.  Let him be remembered for the good he did, and for the strenuous service of his seventy years.

American Annals of the Deaf, 1897, Volume 42 (4), p,269-70

Branson, J. & Miller, D., Damned for their Difference: the Cultural Construction of Deaf People as Disabled. Gallaudet, 2002

Obituary. British Deaf Monthly, 1897, 6, 151.

Portrait. British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1894, 3, 36.

Buxton, D., On the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in Lancashire and Cheshire, Volume: 6 (1853-1854) Pages: 91-102

Buxton, D., On some results of the census of the deaf and dumb in 1861, Volume: 17 (1864-1865) Pages: 231-248

1891 census – Class: RG12; Piece: 3183; Folio: 67; Page: 19; GSU roll: 6098293

1861 census – Class: RG 9; Piece: 2683; Folio: 84; Page: 1; GSU roll: 543012

Alexander Watson (1815/16–1865): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28827

*[For the continuation of this exchange, I feel a future blog entry will be necessary]

James Kerr Love, Scottish Aurist, friend of Helen Keller, 1858-1942

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 22 July 2016

Kerr Love 2James Kerr Love was one of the leading British otologists of the early 20th century, but will be remembered more for his involvement with deaf children and his friendship with Helen Keller than for his surgical skills (BMJ, 1942).

It was this less spectacular work that lay nearest to his heart, and he spared himself nothing in its pursuit. […] In Dr. Kerr Love they had for many years a sympathetic and tireless champion, who wrote, lectured, and organized on their behalf with unflagging energy (ibid).

He was born in Beith, Ayrshire, a ‘son of the manse’. He was educated in Glasgow High School and the University of Glasgow, becoming an M.D. in 1888 writing his thesis, The Limits of Hearing (ibid, & BDM p.128). He was a surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary for thirty years, and worked for the Glasgow Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. It was with his colleague, Dr. Addison, head of that Institute, and later Missioner for the deaf in Salisbury diocese, that he wrote the book Deaf Mutism (1896). His father-in-law was the Rev. Joseph Corbet or Corbett. He died on the 30th/31st of May, 1942, at Sunnyside, West Kilbride, Ayrshire.

It is hard to summarise Kerr Love’s views on education, and he does stress that it is a matter for teachers. Let us look at a couple of passages with his own words.  At the end of his 1906 book, Diseases of the Ear, he says:

So far as State arrangements for the education of the deaf and dumb are concerned, it seems to the author that in every large community two schools for the deaf should exist:

1. One containing all the semi-deaf, the totally deaf with much residual speech, and the ordinary deaf mute who makes good progress on the oral method. Nothing but the oral method should be adopted in this institution. Signs should be used as little as possible, and finger spelling should be prohibited. All deaf children should pass their first year in this school.
2. A school min which the finger method or a combination of the oral and finger methods is taught. It is the writer’s opinion that at least half of the deaf-mute children would ultimately find their way into this second school (p.320).

He seems to have maintained this view that sign language was only good enough for those unable to learn spoken language, writing in 1936 (in The Deaf Child, p.109):

Some of the schools describe themselves as oral schools, some as combined schools. But if it is difficult to define a combined method, it is more difficult to define a combined method school.

I am now speaking of the institutions and not of the day-schools, and I state that, apart from those in Manchester and London, all the residential institutions I have visited are combined schools. Only in these two cities do arrangements exist for the separation of the defective deaf, who should be taught manually, from the ordinary deaf child, who should be taught orally (p.109).

It is probably unfair to give a couple of quotes out of the full context of his thought, and his views seem more nuanced than these quotations might make him appear. His work is worthy of consideration in the history of deaf education in the period from 1890 to the 1930s, as he was well known and widely read, being involved in the foundation of the National Bureau for Promoting the General Welfare of the Deaf. They published his monograph consisting of four essays, The Causes and Prevention of Deafness (1912).

We see him here with his friend, Helen Keller. She was such a celebrity, perhaps one of the first modern celebrities, that everyone wanted to meet her or be seen with her, poets, politicians, doctors etc. Selwyn Oxley contacted Kerr Love when she came to the UK in 1932, as he too wanted to meet her. I love Kerr Love’s reply: “I cannot see what she can make of your library unless it be in Braille.” These notes were later stuck into a copy of one of his books by Oxley.Kerr Love note 1

Kerr Love note 2Kerr LoveKerr Love, J. & W.H. Addison.  Deaf-mutism.  1904

Kerr Love, J. & W.H. Addison.  The education of the deaf and (so-called) dumb: two papers, by James Kerr Love and W.H.Addison. Glasgow: Philosophical Society of Glasgow, 1893.

Kerr Love, J. & W.H. Addison.  A statement on the subject of methods of education, by James Kerr Love, with remarks thereon by W.H.Addison. Glasgow: James Cameron, 1893.

Kerr Love, James (ed).  Helen Keller in Scotland, a personal record written by herself.  1933

Kerr Love, James. Deafness and Common Sense. 1936

Obituary: James Kerr Love, M.D., LL.D. The British Medical Journal, Vol. 1, No. 4250 (Jun. 20, 1942), p. 775

Deaf-mutism, by J. Kerr Love, & W.H. Addison, (review) The British Deaf-Mute p.126-8, Vol. 5 1895-6

‘she had “very little ear” for speech’ – Ardent Oralist Miss Susannah E. Hull,

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 16 December 2015

Susannah Elizabeth Hull, (1843-1922) was born with her twin Agnes in Camberwell, daughter to George Hull a Scottish Doctor and his wife Susanna.  He was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh.  In 1851 the family were living in Tonbridge, Kent, but her father clearly prospered in his medical practice as by 1861 they were living in Kensington.  Susannah is hardly remembered today, but she was one of the British representatives at the Milan Conference, and knew Alexander Graham Bell well.  She was first attracted to work with deaf children on reading about Laura Bridgeman, the American deaf-blind lady according to British Deaf Monthly, and was told by her father of the case of two deaf children.  She wrote to the British Deaf Monthly to correct several inaccuracies in their story (Hodgson 1953, p.207-8, BDM vol 9 p.103).  In 1862-3 she became interested in a small girl who was left deaf, blind, and paralysed by scarlet fever.  She was, we are told, encouraged by Dickens’s account of the deaf-blind lady, Laura Bridgman, which he wrote in American Notes.  Accordingly she opened a small home school in 1862, in her father’s house at 1, St. Mary Abbott’s Terrace, Kensington, moving to Warwick Gardens with her family after six years, the better to accommodate her expanding school.

The BDM says she taught at first with the manual alphabet and writing.  In his biography of Alexander Graham Bell, Bruce says

Since 1864 the idea of teaching speech to deaf-mutes had grown in Melville Bell’s mind from an incidental possibility to “one of the prominent utilities of the system,” as he put it.  This claim caught the eye of Bell’s former pupil Susanna E. Hull, who now ran a private school for deaf children at South Kensington.  In the spring of 1868 Miss Hull asked Melville Bell for help following up on the idea.  Thus, on May 21, 1868, Alexander Graham Bell first tried his skill at teaching the deaf, his pupils being two “remarkably intelligent happy-looking little girls” named Lotty and Minna.  (Bruce, p.56)

The BDM article differs slightly – it says

on hearing of Prof. Bell’s “Visible Speech,” by which the deaf could be taught to speak, she went over to America, in one of her vacations, and studied this method, and for some years taught her children to speak in this way.  When however, the late Mr. Arthur Kinsey was appointed Principal of the Ealing College, Miss Hull went to him, and studied the Oral system, and from that time – 1878, has been a strong advocate of the Pure Oral method; not only teaching her own pupils to speak but leacturing on behalf of the children of the poor all over the country, and always pleading for speech for the deaf. (ibid.)

Miss HullBruce says that she went to the U.S.A. and spent a month with Alexander Bell in Boston – this would have been in 1872 (Bruce, p.90). “During the school year a dozen or so pupils came to him, among them Theresa Dudley for two or three months, Susanna Hull from London for a month (somewhat to Bell’s regret, since she had “very little ear” for speech) […]” (ibid).  Farrar says, “Another pioneer of the oral teaching in this country is Miss Susanna E. Hull, who had begun the private education of the deaf in 1862, but her method was more a combined than oral one, in which lip-reading was hardly recognised, and it was not until 1873 that she adopted the oral system in its entirety.” (Farrar, 1923, p.75)

Susannah Hull attended the Milan Conference, and in the address or paper which she read there, she said that when she began her work in 1863,

I was ignorant that so vast a number of our fellow beings were deprived of the sense of hearing, and I had no idea that so many institutions existed for the amelioration of their condition. All I then knew had been gathered from a short account of Laura Bridgman and James Mitchell, in Chambers’ Magazine.  […] Then I heard through my father, a London Physician, of the miserable condition of a young lady, who by a succession of fevers had been left lame, maimed, deaf, and almost blind.  No one could be found to educate this unhappy child, and my father was appealed to for advice and assistance.  The slumbering desire of my heart awoke, and I gained permission to attempt the task. (p.69-70)

Told that she could “do nothing for those born deaf without signs”, and that she would have to enter an institution to gain that knowledge, she continued, “Nothing then remained but to teach without signs, or form them for myself.”  She continues,

I enter thus minutely into my first steps to show how utterly unprejudiced I was to any system, how ready to adopt anything that could be to the advantage of my pupils.

With regard to signs, I must add, that, on looking back, I date a decline in my success in teaching language, from the time of the introduction of those signs. (p.71)

She explains more of the history of her methods, complains the the “Combined” system “injures the tone of voice”, and that “as the deaf are only to ready to think themselves the objects of detractive remarks, persons so taught will soon find out that their speech is peculiar, and be driven to use their voices less, to depend on silent methods more, and to prefer the society of the deaf.” (p.76)

Hull was a member of the Ealing Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf, and taught at the college’s school in order to gain an insight into Mr Kinsey’s use of the German Method of oralism, and to that end visited German Deaf Schools in 1883 with miss Yale of Northampton, Massachusetts (BDM p.103).   She was one of the many who gave evidence to the Royal Commission on the blind, the deaf and dumb, &c., of the United Kingdom in 1886.  In her testimony, on pages 255-9,  she says (§ 7815) that she visited American Institutions in 1872 and 1873, and many German Institutions in 1883.  Among other interesting things, she also says (§ 7884-5) that they had trouble at the college in recruiting men.

Susannah Hull wrote several pamphlets, some are listed below.  She died on November the 24th in Sidcup, Kent, well regarded by her teaching friends, if the obituary in Teacher of the Deaf (thin as it is on biographical detail) is to be believed, but no doubt she was a disappointment to those who favoured manual education.

Clearly there are interesting avenues for research here, such as the teaching methods of early oralists as opposed to manualists (the Royal Commission report is useful here), a better understanding of the chronology of oralism and manualism, and following up on individuals from oralist and manualist backgrounds to examine as far as possible their stories after leaving education.

[Note: I originally wrote that there should be no ‘h’ Susanna, but she did sign her letter to the BDM with the ‘h’ so I have made a few corrections & added a little more information 7/2/2020]

Bruce, Robert V. Bell : Alexander Graham Bell and the Conquest of Solitude., 1973

Farrar, A., Arnold on the Education of the Deaf. 2nd edition, 1923.

Hodgson, K. The deaf and their problems. 1953

McLoughlin, M.G., A History of the Education of the Deaf in England,

Miss Hull’s Life Work, British Deaf Monthly, 1899, Vol.8, no.90, p.113

New Institute for the Deaf at Rochdale, opened by Miss Hull, Oldham Deaf-Mute Gazette, November 1907, p.45-53

Obituary. Teacher of the Deaf, 1922, 20, 161-64.

Our teachers: Miss Susannah E. Hull. British Deaf Monthly, 1900, 9, 84, 103, 121. (photo)

Susannah E Hull, works in the Historical Collection:
Lessons in intuitive language, from the pictures published by the Educational Supply Association…No.1, Industrious children moral series. London, Educational Supply Association, 18–?

My experience of various methods of educating the deaf-born: a paper written for the International Congress at Milan, September, 1880, p.69-84.

Teaching the dumb to speak: a health question for the working classes, a question for the rich. London, Witherby, 1884.

Letter to Miss Rogers on the International Congress held at Milan, Italy, September 6-11, 1880. Dated November 10, 1880 [Northampton, Mass: Clarke Institution, 1880]. Published as pp. 35-43 of the Appendix to the 13th Annual Report of the Clarke Institution.

A few words on the extension of our work. 18–?

I thought it might be of interest to add a list of her pupils from the 1881 census, the only one where she is listed with her students.  I was unable to track her in the 1871 census and I suspect that she was travelling, though a careful search with variants of her name might find her, as transcribers often make errors.  Most of these pupils will have been in the school when Hull attended the Milan Congress in September 1880.

Address Surname Relationship to Head Age Estimated birth year Gender Occupation Place of birth Country of birth
Holland Rd 89 Susanna Hull Head 38 1843 Female Instructor Of The Deaf By Vocal Speech Peckham Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Clementina M. Hull Sister 37 1844 Female Artist Oil Watercolor Peckham Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Jessie M. Warden Pupil 11 1870 Female Scholar (Brit Sub) India
Holland Rd 89 Phoebe G. Sandbach Pupil 9 1872 Female Scholar Manchester
Holland Rd 89 Laura E.J. Gofton Pupil 8 1873 Female Scholar Yorkshire England
Holland Rd 89 Beatrice M. Isleton Pupil 9 1872 Female Scholar Camberwell
Holland Rd 89 Lilian M. Isleton Pupil 7 1874 Female Scholar Caterham Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Margaret O. Allan Pupil 8 1873 Female Scholar (Brit Sub) India
Holland Rd 89 Chas.F. Coyney Pupil 9 1872 Male Scholar Derbyshire England
Holland Rd 89 Cecil H.R. Jones Pupil 7 1874 Male Scholar (Brit Sub) Venezuela
Holland Rd 89 Philip H. Francis Pupil 8 1873 Male Scholar Addlestone Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Henry Francis Pupil 6 1875 Male Scholar Addlestone Surrey England
Holland Rd 89 Harry Hedgland Pupil 8 1873 Male Scholar
Holland Rd 89 Mary Van 42 1839 Female Governess Assistant (S M) London, London Middlesex England
Holland Rd 89 Lititia Amies Servant 54 1827 Female Hsekeeper Domestic Norwich Norfolk England


1911 Class: RG14; Piece: 3721; Schedule Number: 15

1881 Class: RG11; Piece: 28; Folio: 15; Page: 15; GSU roll: 1341006

1851 Class: HO107; Piece: 1614; Folio: 142; Page: 20; GSU roll: 193515

“so moved by these unhappy souls” – Tommaso Pendola, Italian Teacher of the Deaf

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 6 November 2015

This article was written by our colleague Debora Marletta, with some additions.

Born in Genoa on the 22nd of June 1800, Tommaso Pendola (1800-83) joined the order of the ‘Scolopi’, the Piarists (Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools) at the age of 16.  In 1821 he began to teach at the Collegio Tolomei in Sienna. The following quotation is phrased in a way that will sound familiar to regular readers –

Having found several deaf-mutes in Sienna, his city of adoption, he was so moved by these unhappy souls, shut out from the consolation of speech, and so desirous of relieving them from their melancholy condition, that, in 1825, he went to Genoa and placed himself, for nearly a year, as a youthful scholar under Padre Ottavio Assarotti, of the Scolopian Order, who, like De l’Epée in France, was another father to the deaf in Italy. Having learned the method well, Padre Pendola spent all his means in providing a refuge for these unfortunate ones and instructing them. (Matson, p.214-5)

L’Abate Ottavio Giovan Battista Assarotti (1753-1859) had founded the first deaf school in Italy, at Genoa, in 1801.

In 1831, under the auspices of the Grand Duke Leopoldo, Pendola founded and directed in Sienna an institute dedicated to the education of poor deaf people, later known as the Istituto Tommaso Pendola and now part of Asp (Azienda Pubblica dei Servizi alla Persona) ‘Città di Siena’.  In 1844 it was united with the school at Pisa.

Exulting in his heart, happy in relieving misery, he was the first among us to give a gentle and pious mother to these afflicted ones, calling to his Institution “The Daughters of Charity,” and when, in 1848, the members of this order were driven from Sienna as by a whirlwind, those of them that were with him remained peacefully under the protection of his uncontested authority. (Matson, p.215)

As Director at the Istituto, Pendola wrote a number of treatises on deafness and founded, in 1872, the quarterly journal titled L’Educazione dei Sordomuti (now L’educazione dei Sordi [The Education of the Deaf]).  Pendola had been a manual teacher, using sign language, influenced by Sicard, but he modified this teaching method under the influence of his friend Assarotti.

sordomutiThe aim of his new journal was pedagogical, its content directed primarily at teachers of the deaf:

‘The publication was aimed at the analysis of the didactical and pedagogical methods recommended to the teachers of the deaf’ [Esame critico dei mezzi pedagogici e didattici che vengono eventualmente raccomandati o proposti alla scuola dei sordomuti’] (L’Educazione dei Sordomuti, Anno I Serie III, vol. 26, 1903, p. 3).  The journal was also aimed at the promotion of the ‘metodo orale’ [‘the oral method’] or oralism, which had been popular in the United States since the 1860s, and had become known to Pendola via the priest Serafino Balestra, who had introduced into Italy the method known as ‘lip reading’.

Oralism – which opposed the use of sign language whilst advocating the use of speech and lip reading in the teaching of the deaf – was now deemed to be the most natural, appropriate and apt method for the social regeneration of the deaf: ‘il metodo orale è, senza contrasto, il più naturale, il più conveniente e il più opportuno per la rigenerazione sociale dei sordomuti’ (Ibid. p.2).

In 1873, a year after the journal was founded, Pendola organised the Congresso internazionale sull’educazione dei sordomuti di Siena [The International Conference for the Education of the Deaf Mutes of Siena].  As with the journal, the conference provided a platform to discuss the advantages of oralism vs manualism, also setting the theoretical basis for the Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf, held in Milan in 1880.  The ‘Milan Conference’, as it became known, formally established that oral education was superior to manual education, passing a resolution that banned the use of sign language in schools.  As readers of this website and those familiar with sign language will know, it caused much dissent, and is now seen by many as very harmful to the deaf community.  Pendola himself was not present, being old and frail, but was proclaimed honorary president (Matson, p.215).  Enthused by Oralism in the 1870s, Pendola was was appointed by the government as president of a commission to draw up plans for compulsory education of deaf children (ibid, p.216).

Volume 26 of L’Educazione dei Sordomuti, offers a large number of contributions for those interested in the history of the education of the deaf, including that of a teacher, who, in his article entitled ‘Il vocabolario dei nostri allievi’ [‘the Vocabulary of Our Students’] writes that repetition is fundamental in the teaching of a language, even in the case of deaf people. It also includes a review to Dr. Bezold’s book, published in 1902, on the aetiology of deaf-muteness, and a bibliography of studies on deafness within the context of education.

Pendola would seem to have been highly thought of by those who knew him.  He was a professor at the Uninersity of Sienna for thirty years, where, we are told, he fought against the influence of the “popular sensualist school of French materialism” (Matson, p.214).  His funeral on the 14th of February, 1883, seemingly held with greater pomp than he might have wished, was attended by much of the populace, and as he had wished, he was buried ‘with the poor, and in the midst of the deaf and dumb, my pupils’ (ibid p.217-8).

Pendola 001This is one of our copies of Pendola’s book, L’Educazione dei Sordo-muti in Italia, 1855.  It appears to be an inscription by the author.  His journal, L’Educazione dei Sordi, now available online, continues its publication of research articles, bibliographies and individual experiences in keeping with its pedagogical and didactical purposes.

We have a long run in the library from the third series, from 1903 to 1925, then picking up again in 1948.

Portrait of Tommaso.

Matson, Mrs. Kate L., Padre Tommaso Pendola, American Annals of the Deaf, 1883, Vol.28 p.213-9 (Matson’s article is mainly the words of Pendola’s friend, Padre Alessandro Toti.

“By education he understood the development of all the best parts and powers of the creature” – Benjamin Hill Payne & the Cambrian School

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 9 October 2015

Cambrian SchoolBenjamin Hill Payne was born on the 23rd of January 1847.  He lost his hearing after an attack of scarlet fever aged 10 (Ephphatha 1896).  Payne attended the Ranelagh School in Athlone (since closed and sadly the buildings torn down as recently as 1991), then worked as a teacher at Dublin’s Claremont Institution for 16 years, before moving to Swansea.  At Swansea he became the principal after the resignation of Alexander Mollison in 1875 (ibid), or 1874 according to Raper’s obituary in BDT p.129.  He remained there for 40 years.  Benjamin Payne’s wife, Miss Passant (d.1921) was also Irish born, from Slane, and she worked at his side as a matron in these schools.

The 1896 article tells us that at the Cambrian school,

Good manners and the little amenities of life are well taught indeed, and there is a refreshing spirit of bon camaraderie apparent between the Principal, his staff, and the children – an air of genial homeliness that surely is of benefit to one and all. Mr. Payne is thoroughgoing. His word is law in the school and none can command more cheerful obedience. […]
That our friend is a past master in matters educational, goes without saying.  Both methods are used at his school.  He believes in adapting the method to the pupil rather than the pupil to the method. (ibid)

The Cambrian School was formed after a public meeting held by the Mayor in Aberystwyth on 1st of February 1847, and on July 24th the first class was held with two boys at a house in Pier Street under Charls Rhind (see Jones, 1985). The school took more pupils, between the ages of nine and thirteen, and in 1848 there were eight pupils. In 1850 the school moved to Swansea, firstly at Picton Place then later in a new building at Graig Field in 1857 (ibid).
In his memoir, F.W.G. Gilby calls the Paynes ‘dear old friends’, and comments on their value as educators:

The Sleights, father and sons, Edward Townsend of Birmingham, the Paynes of Swansea, Alexander Melville, with Samuel Smith of London, and his brother W.B. Smith of Bristol were the firm stalwarts for the finger alphabet plus signs, and it is not sufficiently known and appreciated how very many splendidly equipped deaf went forth into the world after having been educated by them. (p.145)

He told William Raper of the long hours he had spent with Blomefield Sleight and others drawing up the B.D.D.A. constitution (1926).  In retirement Payne helped out running the R.A.D.D. when the Rev. G.J. Chetwynd joined the Officer Corps.  Raper tells us, “He was an attractive and elegant signer, and liked plenty of space whenever addressing an audience.”

His sermons were well thought out and interesting, but of late were inclined to be somewhat too long. He would forget the time and apologize for this afterwards. (BDT obituary)

Raper says that Payne wrote,

“The B.D.D.A. is not a mission, nor is it concerned soley with after-care. Its concern is the whole class and all that concerns them. It promotes, and has founded, missions and helped them, and is especially interested in education. It did a good deal to enlighten the public years before the Bureau was founded, and its influence on the teachers and education, though unacknowledged, is apparent today … I have lived with and taught the Deaf in Institutions for 56 years. And I say there are evils – necessary evils at present, but evils – evils out of which it is possible good may come.” (ibid)

We can see Payne’s thinking as early as 1877, when he spoke at the 1877 Conference of Headmasters of Institutions at the Strand in London.  I will just quote a few lines, in his discussion of the new oralist versus traditional manualist schools:

By education he understood the development of all the best parts and powers of the creature; instruction was simply specific information.  Compare the title of the Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb with that of the noble old Institution in which he qualified – the National Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Poor.  In that they had all the difference. (ibid, p.106)

Payne died in 1926. His son, the Rev. Arnold Hill Payne, is worthy of his own post.
Payne family 1896Our Portrait Gallery 5. Mr. B.H. Payne, Ephphatha 1896, May p.78-9 (pic)

Mr & Mrs B.H. Payne, Ephphatha 1915, p.385-6 (pic)

Raper, William, Benjamin Hill Payne, Ephphatha 1926 Autumn, p.1025

Raper, William, Benjamin Hill Payne as I knew him, BDT 1926, vol. 22 p.129-30

Mr Benjamin Hill Payne, BDT 1926, vol 22 p.108

Gilby, Memoir



JONES, H. An outline of the historical development of the school for deaf children in Wales. Association Magazine (BATOD), 1985, May, 9-10.

Quarterly Review of Deaf-Mute Education, 1893, 3, 193-198.

Photo. Wales Hi, 1996, 3(3), back cover.

Royal Commission on the Blind, Deaf and Dumb, 1889. Vol. 2, Appendix 28, 289.

Llandindrod Wells School. Silent World, 1959, 14, 148-51.

Llandindrod Wells Residential School for the Deaf. Wales Hi, 1996, 3(2), 6.

“the deaf […] were specially liable to consumption for want of properly exercising their vocal organs”: Edmund Symes-Thompson

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 July 2014

Edmund Symes-Thompson (1837-1907) was born in Keppel Street in London, in the house next door to that where Anthony Trollope had been born in 1815.  His father Dr Theophilus Thompson F.R.S. (1807-60) was one of the founders of the Brompton Hospital, where he was an expert in Consumption, and according to his DNB entry “is credited with being the person who introduced cod-liver oil into England”, no doubt endearing him to generations of children then yet unborn.Edmud Symes Thompson

Edmund followed his father into the medical profession, training at Kings College London where he won several prizes.  He too went to work at the Brompton Hospital and became an expert in chest diseases.

In addition to his work as a doctor, he was Professor of Physic at Gresham College and lectured there for many years.  Although some of his ideas seem bizarre now, he was was accepting of the scientific discoveries of his lifetime, but sought to reconcile them with his deeply held religious beliefs.  He expressed this through membership of the Guild of Saint Luke, an organisation founded by some surgeons in 1868.  At it height it held annual services in St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey attended by large numbers of the medical profession.*

Symes-Thompson subscribed to the view that Deaf people were more likely to suffer from pulmonary diseases than the hearing, promoting those views at the Milan Congress in 1881 (Esmail p.245).  Here is the Symes-Thompson Milan paper.  After his death his wife gathered together materials to produced  a book about his life called Memories of Edmund Symes-Thompson M.D., F.R.C.P. A Follower of St. Luke In it we can read about the origins of the Ealing College for Training Teachers of the Deaf and Symes-Thompson’s links with that organisation.

The college was oralist, founded by Benjamin Ackers, and we have mentioned it before as it features strongly in the promotion of the ‘German’ system in the late 19th century.  Mrs. Ackers contributed a short history of the Society to the Mermories –

An English gentleman of high abilities, the late Mr. Arthur Kinsey, was sent by Mr. Ackers to Germany and elsewhere and thoroughly trained, and then in 1877, with the warm sympathy and aid of Dr. and Mrs. Symes-Thompson and other friends of the deaf, the ‘Society for Training Teachers of the Deaf and for the Diffusion of the German System’ was formed. Dr. Symes-Thompson threw himself the more heartily into the scheme because, as Senior Physician to the Brompton Hospital for Consumption, his long and keen observation led him to note that the deaf – in those days not taught to speak – were specially liable to consumption for want of properly exercising their vocal organs. The following year the Training College for Teachers of the Deaf, with Mr. Kinsey as Principal, was opened at Ealing, with a small practising school attached; for, needless to say, students cannot be trained unless they can see how deaf children are taught, the way in which sounds have to be developed, ideas drawn out, and language imparted.

Edmund Symes-Thompson was a member of the Society for the remainder of his life, ending as Chairman.  It may be instructive, if slightly shocking to a modern reader, to see quite how determined the Society was to stop children signing – this ‘Appendix C’ below comes from the 1906 report, the year Symes-Thompson died.

appendix c

In 1899 Charles Mansfield Owen, who was a member of The Royal Association in Aid of the Deaf and Dumb, wrote a pamphlet where he set out his opposition to the views on oralism and societies for the deaf, that Symes-Thompson had expressed to the English Bishops in a circular letter on Missions to the Deaf and Dumb.  Owen wrote “His letter (however unintentionally), is likely to do considerable injury to the cause of these Missions” and proceeded to give answer in the Spiritual Care of the Adult Deaf and Dumb.

We should note that despite Symes-Thompson’s interest in the deaf, I cannot find a mention of him in Neil Weir’s Otolaryngology: An Illustrated History  and he was not an otolaryngologist.  It would be interesting to see what his contemporaries who were otolaryngologists made of his ideas regarding deafness.

Over to the researchers!

*I can find no evidence of this particular guild after the 1920s of some newspaper reports of the annual service.  Perhaps it ended with the Second World War.



Esmail, Jennifer, Reading Victorian Deafness. 2013

T. B. Browning, ‘Thompson, Theophilus (1807–1860)’, rev. Kaye Bagshaw, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/27277, accessed 3 July 2014]

E. Symes-Thompson, Memories of Edmund Symes-Thompson, M.D., F.R.C.P.: a follower of St. Luke (1908) – Our copy is signed by the authoress, Lilla Symes-Thompson, and inscribed to the Bishop of Gibralter

Van Praagh & the rise of Oralism

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 18 November 2011

William VAN PRAAGH (1845-1907)

While other teachers such as Thomas Braidwood in Britain and the Abbé de l’Epeé had used some oral teaching in the 18th century, it was the German Samuel Heinicke who founded what became known as ‘Oralism’ or ‘the German method’ for teaching Deaf children.  In 1778 when Heinicke set up a school in Leipzig which he directed until his death in 1790 (see Wikipedia entry here – Heinicke).  He proved very influential and his followers took the Oral method to Holland.

Wolf  Saloman Van Praagh was born in Holland into a Dutch Jewish family.  He took the name William when he settled in England in 1866 (see interview in British Deaf Mute and Weinberg).  William had been sent to take charge of the Jewish Deaf School by the influential Dutch oralist David Hirsch, Director of the Rotterdam School (see McLoughlin).

In 1871 Van Praagh published a phamphlet (unfortunately not held by us) which moved for the establishment of Day Schools for Deaf children.  Possibly influenced by this and partly as a consequence of the success of the Jewish School, Baroness Mayer (see previous post) wished to start a non-sectarian school and spread the use of the Oral system.  The Association for the Oral Instruction the Deaf and Dumb was set up in 1871, and an associated training college the following year.  The Normal School and Training College was then established in June 1872 in Fitzroy Square, not far from Euston Station, with Van Praagh as the director.

Van Praagh wanted Deaf children to mix with the non-deaf population, and was opposed to the combined lip-reading and manual method of education. The British Deaf Mute article from 1894 includes an interesting interview with Van Praagh in which the following is said –

“The Rev.T.Arnold recently made use of the remark that the combined method of instruction is ‘irrational and immature.’ Is that your opinion , also?”
“Yes. I prefer any system in its purity to any combined methods of instruction.”

Van Praagh died after his annual public demonstration in Fitzroy Square.  His last words were “Gentlemen, I have finished,” then he collapsed with an attack of ‘angina pectoris’.  Immediately after his obituary in the British Deaf Times for 1907, there is a short article on ‘The Shortcomings of the “Oral” Method’, which concludes “Every teacher of the deaf ought to master the sign language of his pupils.”  The spread of Oralism did, and continues to generate great anger in the Deaf community. In his 1910 book ‘The Deaf Child‘ (p.121), James Kerr Love said “Teachers have divided themselves into opposing camps of oralists and manualists, and until this opposition ceases, the deaf child must suffer.”

Andreas Markides, The speech of hearing-impaired children. 1983.

Appreciation. Teacher of the Deaf, 1907, 5, 178-81.

Association for the Oral Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb. British Deaf-Mute and Deaf Chronicle, 1894, 3(33), 113-15. (photo)

Love, James, 1858-1942.:  The deaf child : a manual for teachers and school doctors. Bristol, 1911

McLoughlin, M. G.:  A history of the education of the deaf in England. Liverpool :   [the author] ,   1987

Obituary. British Deaf Times, 1907, 4 (44), 185-86. (photo)

Obituary. American Annals of the Deaf, 1907, 52, 499.

Van Praagh, William,  Lessons for the instruction of deaf and dumb children in speaking, lip-reading, reading and writing… Illustrated. London, Trubner, 1884.

WEINBERG, J. The history of the Residential School for Jewish Deaf Children, 1865-1965.

The Jewish Deaf School in Balham

By H Dominic W Stiles, on 11 November 2011

JEWISH DEAF SCHOOL, Nightingale Lane, Balham, London (1865- 1965)

Henry A. Isaacs (1830-1909) later knighted after being Lord Mayor of London in 1889/90, had sent his two deaf daughters Louisa and Sarah to the Rotterdam deaf school where the Oral method was used.  He and two other members of the Jewish community decided to form a Jewish School for the deaf and managed to get the support of Baroness Mayer de Rothschild.  They bought a house for the school at 15 Mount St in Whitechapel in 1865.  The school was started with 3 or 4 pupils who were taken from the Old Kent Road school.  Initially they were taught by the Rev. C. Rhind using manualism, but the school committee was quickly persuaded by Isaacs that Oralism was better.  Shortly after, under the headship of the Rotterdam trained Jewish Teacher of the Deaf William van Praagh, the school became the first in the U.K. to introduced the Oral method of education.  Shortly after 1865 it seems Isaacs wrote a pamphlet on oral education, Sound versus Signs, which laid out his views on oral education, based on how his daughters were taught.  (We do not have a copy, and neuither does the British Library.  It would have been privately printed so if anyone has a copy, we would appreciate a scan of it.)

In its first few years the school moved several times.  In 1875 it went to Walmer House in Notting Hill the former episcopal palace of the Bishop of Norwich, before ending up in Nightingale Lane in 1899 (see Weinberg).

The school closed in 1965 due to a decline in the number of pupils.

Jewish School – view from the garden circa 1910-20

Annual Reports in the RNID Library – 1884, 1910-1912, 1914, 1915, 1921, 1928-1932, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1945, 1949/50, 1954/55, 1960/61

DENTON, E. The former Residential School for Jewish Deaf Children, Nightingale Lane, Balham, 1865-1965.  The author, 197-? (photos)

RNID Library location: B13977(REF)

RNID Library location: WTG BVF G(REF)

“Sir Henry Isaacs.” Times [London, England] 5 Aug. 1909: 9

The New “Jews Home”, British Deaf Monthly, 1899, Vol.8, no.93, p.174-8 (pictures)

WEINBERG, J. The history of the Residential School for Jewish Deaf Children, 1865-1965.